White Tile and Gray Grout: Light vs. Dark

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The decision making process is not over when you finally pick your backsplash or shower tiles. Now you have to figure out which of the many grout color options will look best! I’m sharing tips for choosing the best grout color for your kitchen backsplash and more! See examples of white tile and gray grout in every shade.

white kitchen with white subway tile backsplash and white grout, marble countertops

White Subway Tile – Timeless or Trendy?

The most popular kitchen backslash continues to be the classic white subway tile. The distinct pattern of alternating rectangles has been around since the it graced the walls of a New York City subway station back in the early 1900s and is still going strong.

What has changed is the growing amount of sizes, colors, and textures that are available. Designers have gotten creative over the years with tile layout patterns as well. In an effort to prevent even more confusion for you, I will limit the gray grout color comparisons to traditional tile layouts.

white kitchen with marble countertops, white subway tile and white grout

Keep in mind there are no wrong or right decisions. Like everything else in the interior design and decorating world, it is all about your personal preference.

White Tile with White or Light Gray Grout

The shade of gray you choose to go with your white tiles depends on the look you are going for. Do you intend for your backsplash to blend in or are you looking to add something that will catch the eye.

White or light grey grout has a sophisticated look when paired with white tiles. They both blend in with the tiles so the grout lines aren’t as visible. I prefer the uniform look of light grout on my backsplash because I have honed Carrara marble countertops and I wanted that to be the star of the show.

white kitchen with marble countertops, white subway tile with white grout

White Subway Tile with Dark Gray Grout

Going with a dark grout is classic subway tile look. The difference in colors emphasizes the grout lines and gives your backsplash a patterned look that demands attention.

This look is ideal in older homes where you want to preserve the vintage style. If I lived in a NYC apartment on the upper east side it’s what I’d go for!

90s kitchen with white subway tile and gray dark gray grout, wood cabinets, granite countertops
90s kitchen with white subway tile and gray dark gray grout, wood cabinets, granite countertops

Contrasting white tile and dark grout has also been popular in modern farmhouse kitchen designs. In this case, this combination reflects a more casual style. Our home came with white subway tile with dark grout paired with dark cabinets. I’d always dreamt of a classic white kitchen and updating this 90s kitchen was at the top of my list.

Choosing Grout for Checkerboard Tiles

What happens if you have a mix of light and dark tiles? This tile design already has contrasting colors so which one do you match the grout to?

gray and white marcble checkerboard floors with dark grey grout

My laundry room and small basement bathroom both have checkerboard floors designed with white and gray marble tiles. I ended up choosing a darker grout for the mudroom because it is a high traffic area and darker ground camouflages dirt better. If you choose light grout in a high traffic area, don’t expect it to remain the original color for very long. Eventually it will turn grey.

mudroom with marble checker board floors and grey grout
small bathroom marble checkerboard floor with light grey grout

But, the heart wants what the heart wants, right? If light grout is what you’d be happy with the extra time spent cleaning it will be worth it. You can also seal it and that should help a bit with the dirt.

Grout Colors for Mosaic Tiles

Mosaic tiles are small tiles that are put together to form a pattern that comes pre-glued to backing. This pattern is often created with tiles of different colors and shapes. Check out my bathroom flooring ideas for design inspiration!

When working with marble tiles, it’s important to seal the tiles before you apply the grout, especially if you are applying dark grey grout. Marble is susceptible to staining and the sealing process will help prevent that.

marble mosaic tiles in bathroom shower with light gray grout

To make life easier, darker grout would be easier to keep clean. But if you have white tiles and gray grout in the shower, choosing a dark grout may not give you the look you are going for – especially if you have mosaic tiles with a small pattern.

marble mosaic hexagon tiles with light grey grout

How to Test Grout Colors

Can you change your grout color? Your contractor will hate you, but it is possible. Large format tiles would be a bit easier but if you have small mosaic tiles it would be a nightmare. To prevent any wasted time and money, be sure to test different grout colors to see which one you like best. Here is how you do it:

Step 1: Glue tiles to cardboard

Grab a few of the tiles you intend to use and a piece of cardboard. Next, you will glue the tiles to the cardboard in the desired pattern. I used my hot glue gun but whatever you choose to use, make sure it is strong enough to hold the tiles securely.

person using hot glue gun to stick white subway tiles to cardboard

Step 2: Prepare grout colors

I suggest testing out multiple colors because there are so many shades available. Mix a small amount of each grout color according to the manufacturers instructions – it should have the consistency of peanut butter. Here I used plastic disposable cups so I can just toss them when I’m done.

four colors of grey grout mixed in plastic cups

Step 3: Apply the grout

I tested out a few different colors on the same board. To prevent any mix ups, I labeled the cardboard with the name of the colors. Apply the grout to the designated area with a small spackle knife. Be sure to wipe off any excess grout so you can’t a clear view of the finished product.

testing grout colors on white tile
testing grout colors on white tile
testing grout colors on white tile
testing grout colors on white tile

Step 4: Wait at least 24 hours

Grout looks different when it’s wet so you’ll need to wait until it is completely dry to see its true form. At this time you can make a final decision about the grout color you want to use.

wet grout colors on marble mosaic tiles
dry grout colors on marble mosaic tiles

How to Clean Grout

Grout that hasn’t been sealed will need to be cleaned more frequently. What you use to clean it will depend on the type of tiles you have. For example, I am not able to use abrasive cleaners on my marble tile floors so I use something that is gentle and won’t damage the surface of the stone.

I’ve tried a few things over the years and the best gadgets for cleaning grout are this electric spin brush and the Bissell Steam Shot.

Grout contains sand particles which allow dirt to accumulate. The brush is great to use with a gentle cleaner while the Steam Shot uses steam and air pressure to get rid of dirt and buildup.

Tile and Grout Combinations in My Home

Fireplace – Marble mosaic tiles and Polyblend Snow White grout

fireplace with red brick surround
Stefana Silber applying grout to marble mosaic tiles around fireplace
after photo of marble mosaic tiles over red brick fireplace surround

Basement wet bar – Riad Zellige Snow White tiles and Mapei White grout

Snow White Riad Sellige tiles without grout
white Riad Zellige tiles with white grout
basement wet bar with zellige tiles and white grout

Kitchen – White subway tiles and Polyblend Snow White grout

kitchen with white subway tiles and white grout, marble countertops, decor

Primary bathroomMarble mosaic and tiles and Mapei Frost grout

primary bathroom with marble mosaic tile floor and light grey grout

Basement bathroom – Marble mosaic tiles and Mapei Platinum grout

small basement bathroom floor with checkerboard and mosaic tiles with light gray grout

Mudroom – White Carrara marble with gray Bardiglio marble and Ardex Cast Iron grout

gray and white marble checkerboard floors with dark grey grout

FAQs About White Tile and Gray Grout

Do you need to seal grout?

I recommend sealing grout if you use a light color and it’s in a high traffic area near a cooking area in a kitchen. Grout is porous and will stain making it difficult to clean. Also, if you have marble tiles and plan to use dark grout, seal the tiles first!

What color caulk should I use with white tile and gray grout?

The best choice is to use a caulk that matches the color of your grout. This will blend in and prevent any visual distractions.

Why is my grout crumbling where the wall meets the countertop?

No, your contractor didn’t do it wrong! Grout is meant to be applied to flat surfaces and may not hold up well at 90 degree junctions. This is one of the reasons caulk is used at this point.

Can you paint grout?

I personally haven’t tried it, but there are paint products out there that allow you to give your dull and dirty grout a new look. Be sure to choose the paint meant for the type of grout your have.

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